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Afro Salsa rocks Goethe-Institut

It was entertainment galore at the expansive lawn of the Goethe-Institut as the Sotiris Papadopoulos Salvador Sango band thrilled music lovers from all walks of life. Dele Adeyanju reports.

The Green Area of the Goethe-Institut was filled to capacity on Saturday as distinguished personalities which comprised a large chunk of the diplomatic community and high profile Nigerians enjoyed the sensuous beat of Sotiris Papadopoulos’ Salvador Sango band. In his introductory speech, shortly before the commencement of the Afro Salsa concert, Arne Schneider, Director of the Goethe-Institut said the Salvador Sango band is a world renowned musical group with a reputation for bridging cultural gaps through the medium of their unique kind of music. He also thanked the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the electronics giants, Siemens for sponsorship considerations which made the event possible.

It is hard to classify Salvador Sango music. It is a musical blend that represents today’s reality of the World i.e., that people and cultures are no longer as far apart as they used to be.
According to Akin Onasanya, a band member, “this is a group of people who have digested the big truth that we are all one.” The band plays a strange but wonderful mix of afro Beat, Latin American rhythm, and European rock music.

The members come from places as far apart as Europe and Africa but those who see them on and off stage would think that they were all born in the same hospital and that they have been playing together all their lives. They handle salsa, flamenco and jazz with the same ease with which they handle Yoruba folklore, juju music and gospel.

What is interesting about this remarkable feat is the sheer fact it is not the result of academic training cum technical ability alone - probably not at all - but rather the result of being able to identify completely and deeply with what they do. Sotiris Papadopoulos told the Comet “it is hard sometimes to draw the dividing line between the spectrums of geographical styles when we play.”

With the exception of their band leader, the rest have one thing in common: they all learnt music in the church, but share two things in common; their love for music and the dream of spreading their musical and spiritual message across the world.
Sotiris Papadopoulos, lead-singer, guitarist, vocalist, and composer was born on September 17, 1956, in Volos, Greece. A physicist by training, Sotiris holds a PhD in Atomic Physics from Oxford but left the academic and research world for the great love of his life: music.

He showed an interest in music at a comparatively late age. At 17, he started singing rock for his first local band, Eternal Wealth. After high school, he left Greece for Germany to study Physics. There he picked up the guitar and started imitating Jimi Hendrix and other rock guitar greats. During his years in Germany, he developed a passion for Latin and Spanish music and played with various local bands including a commercial one that made waves in the local entertainment scene.

In 1980, he travelled to Nigeria where he played with the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti and developed a keen interest in African rhythm. After his studies and various jobs in Europe and Asia, the dream of music brought him to Africa and he came to Nigeria in 1988.
In the years that followed, Sotiris played with numerous bands and local stars as a leader and as a sideman/guest including Dizzy Gillespie in Port Harcourt in 1989, as well as his well known band, SPICE.

In 2004, he formed Sotiris which later became Salvador Sango, his artistic pseudonym. Other members of this wonderful group include Tosin Oyedele, Segun Adeshola, Daniel Adegbola, and Dare Akinlagun.
Frontline jazz exponent Tee Mac and other music loving Nigerians graced the event.

Mr Oluwatosin John Oni, a computer engineer praised the band for its wonderful performance. “I could not believe that a Greek national could speak Yoruba this well. It is also intriguing to see Nigerians sing South American songs with such brilliant expertise. It’s simply thrilling,” said Oni.


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